Undercurrent Labs uses a multi VR camera system with an ATEM Constellation 8K to live stream its robotics lab’s simulations to a team of specialists to support virtual consultation

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Undercurrent Labs is an R&D design and OEM system integrator based in Atlanta, Georgia. The company blends digital twin robotic control with extended reality (XR), machine learning and high-speed 4G LTE connectivity to create and deliver immersive platform services and collaborative XR experiences at enterprise scale.

Undercurrent Labs’ most recent venture is the Scale & Automate Against COVID-19 (SAACV19) project at their XR Lab, which uses robotics, machine learning, computer vision and a camera enhanced with simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM). The camera is attached to a collaborative robot to scale up and automate testing to reduce potential exposure, infection risks, repetitive tasks and shortage of medical staff and PPE.

SLAM is the computational problem of constructing a map of an unknown environment while keeping track of an agent's location within it at the same time. Although this what humans have to do every time they arrive in a new place, it may be difficult for a machine to decide which task to address first - localisation or mapping.

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Virtual Consultation and Collaboration

Using a multi-VR-camera system with an ATEM Constellation 8K, ATEM Mini Pro and HyperDeck Extreme 8K HDR for recording, Undercurrent Labs live streams its robotics lab’s simulations to its team of engineers, physicians and infectious disease specialists, who can view the results for virtual consultation and collaboration. A Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is also used to capture angles that require less than a 180° field of view.

Undercurrent Labs’ founder and CEO John Penn said, “Our approach serves the two purposes of allowing our remote team to work and monitor the robots’ motions from home, in compliance with social distancing regulations, while also allowing the VR telepresence functions for remote control of the robotic arms, which is one of SAACV19's critical milestones for fulfilling our mission.

8K VR Live Stream

“To achieve this, we had to reliably live stream and record up to 8K, which is the sweet spot for VR as it allows viewers to see 4K images in each eye when viewing stereoscopic video. We decided to build the workflow around the ATEM Constellation 8K because, as well as the need to support resolutions up to 8K, we also needed a solid, reliable switcher that was easy to ramp up and learn. Return on investment was also a huge consideration – its 8K and HDR capabilities  allow plenty of room for growth as our needs evolve.”

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Pairing the ATEM Constellation 8K with the HyperDeck Extreme 8K HDR gives the team customised macro control options via ethernet – in this case supporting preprogramming of video playback for frame accurate recall and playback, which is essential for their auxiliary content. Also using an ATEM Mini Pro alongside the ATEM Constellation 8K means the team remains nimble and can save time, since they can save their media pool content and edit their settings as XML files to make changes quickly.

On the Road

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“Our workflow has been crucial in allowing our R&D team and stakeholders to remotely collaborate during our proof of concept phase,” John said. “For our next phase, we are extending the lab to the larger medical community, so they can utilise our SAACV19 findings and collaborate to further our research.”

During the next phase, the robotics lab will go on the road so others in the medical community can see the automated testing in action. The Blackmagic Design powered system will be used for IMAG, routed to two large displays so people in the audience can maintain social distancing while still seeing the robotic system close up. This will extend the lab to hospital systems and the larger medical community with the goal of encouraging further collaboration and research in medical robotics and its role in both the COVID-19 pandemic and overall continuity of care.  www.blackmagicdesign.com